Category: Games

Hump Day Hoops: Indiana Pacers- Think Tank

 

Okay. I give up.

 

I won’t try anymore.

 

The relentless optimism and best case scenarios; the hypothetical matchups and ‘well, what if’s. It's all over now, Blue and Gold. No more pretending.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

Maybe there’s still some universe in which the Pacers can win a playoff series but I don’t think it’s this one. Not anymore.

 

After the debacle of Mo Williams (MO FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS) scoring 50 points on the Pacers, there’s no reason to encourage the Pacers to continue making an effort to win every game this season.

 

It’s really a shame too. The East this season is likely the worst conference in modern NBA history. The most important statistic is this: Only 5 teams in the East have a positive point differential; only 5 teams in the West have a negative point differential. The Pacers of the last two years would be the favorites to win the whole conference this year.

 

Except the Pacers aren’t anything like they have been for the last two seasons. Mo Williams wouldn’t have sniffed a 50 point game against those Pacers. The reality is that this group is bad enough that I’m convinced they should begin planning now for next year.

 

Since the Pacers still have the core of a contending team, they don’t even have to pursue some radical renewal plan. They can back to the top of the conference next year with good health and a couple straightforward moves. Next year, they have a first round pick they should use to get another lottery talent on the roster, preferably an offensive minded wing. Right now Paul George is the only Pacer who can drive to score.  They also have three second round draft choices and some easily offloaded contracts that can be parlayed into a useful player. Heck, who knows, Dallas might be willing to do Devin Harris for CJ Miles straight up.

 

The problem is that the Pacers seem scared to do a short term rebuild. They appear stuck in the old fashioned mentality that every win is beneficial. That’s just not the case in today’s NBA. If you’re interested in winning championships in a place like Indiana you simply must acquire maximum talent through the draft. (Signing premier free agents simply won’t happen.) It’s much harder to get that kind of talent drafting at 15 than it is at 5. (And yes, the Pacers are bad enough that they might reasonably have the fifth worst record in the league this year. They don’t need to rely on lottery luck.) This much is clear.

 

It is, at best, unclear if the Pacers have the organizational discipline to play for the long term instead of the short term. I don’t think they do judging by Larry Bird’s public statements. The talk of Paul George playing 1 on 1 is frightening. The very worse thing that could happen to the Pacers is another injury to Young Trece. The second worse is his return lifting them to the 7th or 8th seed this Spring.

 

The Pacers don’t need to be a .500 team this year. They need to be bold enough to be bad for a year. And Pacer fans need to let them know it’s ok.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

I probably need to thank Mo Williams for proving it to me.

 

 

 -Franklin Oliver

 

 

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Hump Day Hoops: Indiana Pacers- Think Tank

 

Okay. I give up.

 

I won’t try anymore.

 

The relentless optimism and best case scenarios; the hypothetical matchups and ‘well, what if’s. It's all over now, Blue and Gold. No more pretending.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

Maybe there’s still some universe in which the Pacers can win a playoff series but I don’t think it’s this one. Not anymore.

 

After the debacle of Mo Williams (MO FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS) scoring 50 points on the Pacers, there’s no reason to encourage the Pacers to continue making an effort to win every game this season.

 

It’s really a shame too. The East this season is likely the worst conference in modern NBA history. The most important statistic is this: Only 5 teams in the East have a positive point differential; only 5 teams in the West have a negative point differential. The Pacers of the last two years would be the favorites to win the whole conference this year.

 

Except the Pacers aren’t anything like they have been for the last two seasons. Mo Williams wouldn’t have sniffed a 50 point game against those Pacers. The reality is that this group is bad enough that I’m convinced they should begin planning now for next year.

 

Since the Pacers still have the core of a contending team, they don’t even have to pursue some radical renewal plan. They can back to the top of the conference next year with good health and a couple straightforward moves. Next year, they have a first round pick they should use to get another lottery talent on the roster, preferably an offensive minded wing. Right now Paul George is the only Pacer who can drive to score.  They also have three second round draft choices and some easily offloaded contracts that can be parlayed into a useful player. Heck, who knows, Dallas might be willing to do Devin Harris for CJ Miles straight up.

 

The problem is that the Pacers seem scared to do a short term rebuild. They appear stuck in the old fashioned mentality that every win is beneficial. That’s just not the case in today’s NBA. If you’re interested in winning championships in a place like Indiana you simply must acquire maximum talent through the draft. (Signing premier free agents simply won’t happen.) It’s much harder to get that kind of talent drafting at 15 than it is at 5. (And yes, the Pacers are bad enough that they might reasonably have the fifth worst record in the league this year. They don’t need to rely on lottery luck.) This much is clear.

 

It is, at best, unclear if the Pacers have the organizational discipline to play for the long term instead of the short term. I don’t think they do judging by Larry Bird’s public statements. The talk of Paul George playing 1 on 1 is frightening. The very worse thing that could happen to the Pacers is another injury to Young Trece. The second worse is his return lifting them to the 7th or 8th seed this Spring.

 

The Pacers don’t need to be a .500 team this year. They need to be bold enough to be bad for a year. And Pacer fans need to let them know it’s ok.

 

It’s time to tank, Pacers.

 

I probably need to thank Mo Williams for proving it to me.

 

 

 -Franklin Oliver

 

 

Hump Day Hoops: A Plea to Pacer Nation

 

Ok Pacers fans, I think we need to do three things:

 

Hold on. Relax. Stop Whining.

 

Better already, right?

 

Here’s the reality check lots of us need. This Pacers squad has spoiled us. They started spoiling us in the playoffs when they did better than they should have until Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Miami kicked them in the teeth. That game demonstrated the gulf between the two squads was far greater than we wanted to believe.

 

They spoiled us much more in the fall. They began the regular season with impressive urgency and success. They believed that they needed home court advantage in the playoffs and took the regular season more seriously than anybody else in the East. That meant their record was fattened on cupcakes and they were very competitive against the best teams in the league too.

 

Then Paul George took The Leap! and looked like one of the best players in the world. Between his early season prominence and the Pacers record, MVP talk started up. So did the notion that the Pacers should be a title favorite this year. Everyone should remember how silly that notion seemed in the summer when the Bulls, Knicks, Nets and Heat were all in that conversation.

 

In September, how many of you would have bet money that the Pacers would own the best record in the East? Stop lying. It was me, Jeff McClure and about 12 other diehards. Everyone else got spoiled by the hot start, the national buzz, everyone else’s injuries and how much we like this team.

 

That’s an underrated factor in all this. Pacer fans finally warmed up to this group after too much hesitation and now we feel let down because this awesome collection of guys might not be the ’85 Lakers after all. Whoops. I mean, ’86 Celtics. I forgot where I live for a moment there. My bad.

 

All I’m asking is that we stop shouting ICEBERG!!  long enough to recognize that this team is way ahead of schedule. The Pacers are also one of the 5 best bets to hoist the Larry O’Brien in June. (I’ll write about how silly NBA trophy names are soon. Easy, awesome fixes.)

 

For now, let’s enjoy all 82. This is a team that works hard on D, shares the ball on O (sometimes to a fault) and is on course to do legitimately special things. As Pacers fans, we should help them try to spoil us a little more.

 

Go Pacers!

 

 

– Franklin Oliver

 

The Dancing Game

 

 

Floating through a crowded wedding reception

We never discover the dance is a game

Focused on age or longevity

Not questioning but celebrating it,

Giving it a privileged place

 

 

Other couples fade from view

Just when they’re supposed to

While we keep dancing

Oblivious to the predetermined competition

That’s captured everyone else’s attention

 

 

The music’s still playing

Which proves to be enough for us

To continue holding each other close

While we keep on dancing

 

 

 

© Gayle
Force Press 2007

 

 

 

Mt. Hibbert Explodes!

 

A friend of mine mentioned that since Roy Hibbert’s press
conference Saturday, he’s now rooting for the Heat. That started me thinking
about what Hibbert was actually aiming for in that presser. 

 

 

I must admit that I've always been perplexed by "no
homo". That phrase is often used in ways that are totally nonsensical.
There’s an interesting Slate article
from a few years ago that describes some of the curious ways it functions in
rap music. For Hibbert to have used “no homo” seemed like acting out as part of
a broader attempt to be tough. The same is true of his calling the reports
"motherfuckers". They both sounded false coming from him. (It verges
on funny to watch Hibbert consider whether to actually say “motherfucker” or
not. I immediately had flashbacks to middle school.)

 

 

Let’s face it, Hibbert is just not a 'street' guy.
Particularly in Indiana in the decade long aftermath of the ‘Malice in the
Palace’, NOT being a street guy is part of why Mt. Hibbert is widely beloved. He’s
one of the faces of the Pacers franchise and in a world wherein Wilt
Chamberlain could believe, “Nobody loves Goliath,” Hibbert’s kindness, charity,
quick smile and obvious love for his family have made him an important
exception to the rule. We Hoosiers love our Goliath. 

 

 

That’s part of what was so jarring about Saturday night. The
eyes of the nation are rarely on the Hoosier State where the NBA is concerned.
The Pacers have been the most important, positive surprise of the playoffs but
Saturday’s after game was a deeply unpleasant, unanticipated surprise. The
contrasts between the press conference and Hibbert’s immediate postgame
interview were shocking. It seems clear that Hibbert’s 'Happy Birthday Dad' hokum
was authentic. The badass wannabe posing he did on the dais wasn’t. Thank
goodness.  

 

 

Of course, it’s always hard to balance who you are and who
you are expected to be, isn’t it? I imagine that’s particularly true on big
stages with bright lights. I’m pleased that David Stern pulled some charity
cash out of Hibbert’s pockets. My hope is that Saturday night will serve as
another clear reminder that the world continues to change and we all need to change
along with it. 

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

Lead Us (to Ill Repute)

 

Today I saw a feature on ESPN’s College Football Live show called the Urban Meyer Leadership Series. I had just turned to ESPN so my initial response was to wait for the punchline… I mean, Urban Meyer? Really, Urban Meyer? This guy has clearly succeeded as a coach and just as clearly failed as a leader. His program has been riddled with arrests. How is it that this guy gets to be perceived as a credible source for leadership? This is part of the pattern of college coaching that saddens me.

 

Jim Tressel is finally forced to resign at Ohio State and Ohio high school coaches decide to honor him by planning to dress like Tressel in their first game.  What example does this set for the athletes and communities of Ohio? Since you won, it doesn’t matter that you lack basic integrity? What other message could there be?

 

Sadly, the situation is probably worse in men’s college basketball. Kelvin Sampson and Jim Calipari left town just ahead of the NCAA posse in multiple locations. Both these guys had programs with major violation stacked on major violation. Distressingly, they continue to fall up, instead of down. Calipari has one of the very best jobs in his profession and Sampson is now the lead assistant for the NBA’s Houston Rockets and is perceived as a likely NBA head coach starting next summer. No penance has to be paid if you get to bowl games or the Sweet Sixteen. Conference championships and rivalry dominance absolve a multitude of sins.

 

Fans of college athletics are so accustomed to this sad situation that today there’s very little outrage about the ways college coaches abuse the system, their universities and their players. Or even the taxpayers who fund their million dollar salaries. It seems that Al Davis bespoke the future of college sports decades ago. Davis’ magic phrase? “Just win, baby.”

 

 

FDO

 

Half Man, Half Missing

 

I watched the Suns-Thunder game Wednesday night and was awestruck to watch Vince Carter playing like it was 2003. He was fantastic! He made offensive play after offensive play and was in such a groove that everyone in the building seemed to be waiting for him to do something special. It’s interesting to me that I initially typed ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. Most NBA fans have always expected him to ‘be’ legendary instead of just ‘doing’ some legendary things.

 

Carter made strength moves, speed moves, balance moves, lefty drives, baseline drives, fading jumpers and one spin move into a dunk that fewer than ten other guys in the league could pull off. It was a tantalizing reminder of how great Carter could have been. He’s one of the most physically gifted players I’ve ever seen and has always had phenomenal basketball skills. Carter really should have been the Chrissie to Kobe Bryant’s Martina.

 

But where talented athletes like Martina, Chrissie and Kobe were all obsessed with their sporting success, Vince has always seemed content to stay on the periphery of greatness. He has never been willing to push himself to develop new skills or average 10 free throws a game or dominate defensively. Usually, folks ask ‘what if’ about guys like Grant Hill, or even Vince’s cousin, Tracy McGrady who saw their careers limited by physical injuries to ankles, knees or feet. Folks will always ask ‘what if’ about Vince too. But not about his ankles, about his heart.

 

 

FDO

 

Super Bowl Blogging-1st Quarter

Super Bowl Blogging-1st Quarter

 

Why defer possession? Is that about gamesmanship or attempting to stave off nervousness?

 

Ah, momentum swings quickly.  The Steelers fans got so excited at the muffed punt then 2 minutes later, the Pack is at midfield and feeling great.

 

I don’t really care that much about Aaron Rodgers’ family history and how hard it was to be a late first round draft pick. Such tales of misery should wait for the second half.

 

I can already imagine the squawking from Packers fans about the near miss catch by Nelson on the first drive, followed by the near miss at pinning the Steelers near the goal line. So close, yet so far away…

 

The best advertising minds in the country came up with this tripe? I am glad to see that Kenny G still looks like, uh, Kenny G…

 

How many different ways will announcers obliquely refer to Ben Roethlisberger’s ‘troubles’ or ‘year’ or ‘difficulties’? I hope folks are using this as a drinking game…

 

Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel in the same movie? Wow, what a great chance to see the baddest ambiguously ethnic action stars in the same movie!

 

A Rod and Cameron Diaz? Are they the least Latin Latino stars in the US? Hey, I’m just asking? (Even the Anthem Killer did a Spanish language album a few years ago.)

 

If Aaron Rodgers is wearing a different helmet because he’s been concussed a couple times, shouldn’t everyone wear that different (presumably better) helmet?

 

Great pass to Nelson. It would have been hard for Nelson to drop that one.

 

When will people start calling Aaron Rodgers ‘A-Rod’? Andy Roddick was never gonna get it but perhaps…

I love that play callers get lots of credit in the NFL. On the touchdown play, the receiver WAS NOT OPEN! The play worked because AROD (see, no hyphen) threw a PERFECT pass. Not because of any schematic genius.

 

Cowboys vs. Aliens followed by Roman Gods vs. Indians? WTF? (No, not ‘win the future’.)

 

So, has Big Ben been 'unredeemed' now?

 

15 yard celebration penalty. Nope, you’re not allowed to celebrate the biggest play of your life in the No Fun League.

 

Boz Scaggs? Who knew?

 

Wow, Eminem sells tea? Wait a sec, did I write that? Yep. Eminem sells tea. Isn’t that the 4th sign of the Apocalypse?

 

Emmanuel Sanders? What a fun name.

 

It’s still hard for me to hear the words “good protection” associated with Big Ben.

 

Within 10 seconds, Joe Buck says something about Big Ben like…

~ ’He looks like he can hardly move.

Now, he can move!’

C’mon Joe Buck, you’re better than that!

  

 

 

 

Science Over Sight

 

Felix Hernandez won the American League Cy Young award yesterday in what is being touted as a harbinger of a new age of baseball. In this new age, statistical complexity trumps conventional wisdom, and in some ways, the ability to believe what we see. One of the many charms of baseball is the ability to create much of individual games through the standard box score. At bats, runs, hits, RBI. Many baseball fans can get 95% of a game’s flow correct from those four stats in a box score. Any game! We can also determine the success level of players based on those box scores. For some, box scores have been an obsession because they indicate so much about baseball. (Tim Kurkjian writes about this beautifully.)

 

What sabermetric statistical analysis has done is to de-value what we see in our box scores. Those cherished box scores are only a portion of what indicates a player’s success. Discovering that the baseball writers who vote on Cy Young and other awards are willing to look beyond the box scores and the conventional measures of success really does seem to be an indication of how thoroughly this sabermetric revolution has taken hold.

 

There are two near certain next steps. One, virtually all baseball television coverage will soon show stat lines that shift during an at-bat. We’ll still see Batting Average, Runs Batted In and Home Runs. Then the scroll will shift to include On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage and On-Base + Slugging Percentage. Then the scroll will shift again to include RC27 (Runs Created per 27 Innings), SECA (Secondary Average), ISOP (Isolated Power) and TB (Total Bases). By 2020, every kid discovering baseball will know those terms as naturally as I do ERA. And when that happens, the second next step will occur. Every computer will have ‘sabermetric’ in its spellcheck.

 

 

FDO

 

Dusty Baker, Tony LaRussa and Red Ruffians, or, Major League Blunders!

Why Baker and LaRussa should not see each other again this season.

I have a few thoughts about the Cardinals-Reds brawl from their last series. You may remember Cincinnati’s Brandon Phillips made numerous provocative comments about the Cardinals then when he came to the plate, Yadier Molina chastised him, benches cleared, bodies flew and hell was raised. At least two pitchers were tossed against the fence in a scary scene. One of them, Johnny Cueto, received a seven game suspension because of kicking at the Cardinals surrounding him. Jason LaRue suffered a mild concussion as a result. I firmly believe that Cueto’s lengthy suspension was based on the injury that his actions caused, not the actions themselves. Random kicking into an onrushing crowd is much less dangerous than throwing a fastball at a batter’s head. Cueto was obviously frightened and, as a pitcher, smartly avoided throwing punches. As we’ve seen too many times, a single arm injury can cost a pitcher his career, millions of dollars and his team a championship.

More importantly, MLB should institute a blanket rule covering fighting the way the NBA has done. In the NBA, if you are on the bench and cross onto the playing floor you are automatically suspended. (I think there should be a little gray area there because basketball benches are so close to the court that players on the sidelines are often less than a step away from the court so crossing over sometimes happens during actual play, much less during a melee.) In baseball, the idea might be to simply punish anyone who comes onto the field or, if already on the field, leaves their legitimate area of engagement. That covers guys playing defense, warming up on the sidelines, the on-deck hitter, the base coaches, everybody. As usually happens in these fights, Phillips and Molina were yelling at each other but not fighting. It was only when 50 other guys crowded the area that things became physical. (Reason #37 professional sports are like junior high school.) Removing the additional people from the scene means that umpires and security personnel can tamp down confrontations quickly, easily and safely. Ideally, managers would be exempt from this rule and allowed to bring their players back to earth from Planet Testosterone.

That notion took a beating in the Phillips-Molina encounter because Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker failed in their primary responsibility as managers during a fight. They did not serve as peacemakers protecting the game and their players, instead they escalated the confrontation. For them, two games was not a severe enough penalty. I think MLB missed a perfect opportunity to declare that fighting is a dangerous problem for baseball by dropping the hammer on these managers. Baker and LaRussa should have been suspended for the rest of the season series between these teams. I mean, full blown suspended too, as in, can’t enter the stadium during these series. These are old school guys who behave in old school ways that simply don’t make sense in 2010. These great managers behaved in ways that encouraged their players to fight. That is entirely unacceptable. What I am suggesting is the kind of draconian penalty that would make it clear to managers that fighting will no longer be tolerated. Too harsh? Perhaps. That’s kinda the point.

FDO